The Namibian Tales Project

Shishani Vranckx

Shishani & The Namibian Tales encompasses a quartet of four international musicians based in Amsterdam with myself as the main vocalist and songwriter. In November 2016, we started a collaboration project with the Ju’/Hoansi San people based in the Kalahari desert of Namibia. They belong to the most marginalized communities of Namibia. Together we create music that is based on their musical repertoire and re-arranged by our acoustic quartet. This presentation delves into the complexities of this collaboration. These complexities encompassed the various conceptualizations of music, performance spaces, performance contexts, and learning processes as well as the social frictions during these processes (with stereotypes of ‘rich “Westerners” versus marginalized “Bushmen”’). Questions arose about notions of ‘real San performances’ that were often at odds with notions of ‘living museums’ and the image and representation of musicians at ‘(world) music festivals’. These complexities also foreground the tensions between the roles of being a performer and a researcher and they touch on the issue of bringing in money as a ‘counter value’ for the work of the community, and the effects of this type of working relationship for all of those involved.